Storytelling, the Green Revolution and cell phone video.

The scene: the summer of 2009 in Tehran, Iran.More angry protestors are beaten back by the Basiji, the Iranian regime’s oppressive militia. Neda is an innocent bystander passing through. Not even innocent bystanders are safe. A Basiji sniper bullet rips into her heart. She lays on the ground bleeding to death. Her father cries out for help. Within days, her face is everywhere in Iran.Protestors hold posters of her face emblazoned with the slogan “we are all Neda.” She’s become an international symbol for the courage of the people of the Green Revolution. A reminder of the brutality of the Iranian regime. All because of a cell phone video. Traditional media outlets were almost completely locked out of the events of the last few months in Iran. But people around the world have followed the emotional protest — all because ordinary Iranians captured the destabilizing protests on the street, feet away from the military and militia, with their cell phones. None of this would have been possible without Twitter, texts and cell phone audio and video. One of Masterworks’ clients, GAiN, used these same techniques in responding to last month’s devastating earthquake in Haiti. GAiN president, Duane Zook, was in Haiti just a day or two after the quake to assess and report. He sent in reports via phone that were uploaded with photos. The result? Compelling multimedia reports that connected donors in an immediate way to the urgency of the need. Each report was highly trafficked and motivated people to give generously. Hear Duane Zook’s reports from the field. How can nonprofits produce gritty video and audio reports? How can they bring their donors to the core of their work? By using their field personnel as a built-in media corps for fundraising. As I understand it, there’s cell phone access even in the most remote, far-flung areas. Almost any cell phone made in the last few years has audio/video/image capability. These cell phones could capture day-to-day compelling stories; giving nonprofits the chance to showcase the heart of their work in a raw and compelling way. Of course, staff members need to learn that videos of smiling aid workers don’t help raise money. Cell phone video of conditions in a refugee camp or a video of a homeless man who is struggling to survive on the street do. They could provide the most compelling argument for donors to give . . . a window into the real-life problems that their gifts help solve.